Jamaica – the third largest island in the Caribbean Sea (after Cuba and Hispaniola), one of the most popular destinations in the Caribbean, is especially known for its all-inclusive resorts. However, a country with a generally laid-back feel has an amazing natural abundance. Picture-perfect powdery white sand beaches with inviting turquoise Caribbean waters, rushing waterfalls erupting out of nowhere surrounded by jungle, are what make this nation with extraordinary natural beauty.
Ocho Rios, located on the Northern Coast of Jamaica, is one of the main tourist destinations in Jamaica. Former sleepy fishing village became popular port of call for massive cruise ships. On the beaten track Ocho Rios with a vast number of duty-free shops, craft markets, restaurants and night clubs have helped to give the town its touristy reputation.
However, this is just one side of the story of Ochi. With mountainous terrain and lush rainforest, Ocho Rios, known for its natural beauty, is a paradise for tourists in search of adventure. In fact, the area is home to a collection of unmissable things to do that should be on every traveller`s list.
Unmissable Things To Do In Ocho Rios
Here are the unmissable experiences Ocho Rios has to offer.
With its mountainous terrain and lush rainforest, Jamaica is home to several waterfalls.
1. Visit IRIE BLUE HOLE and SECRET FALLS
The Blue hole, situated deep in the mountains outside Ocho Rios, is without doubt highlight of the northern coast. Unspoiled natural emerald lagoon with pristine waterfall and beautiful surroundings is an ideal spot for swimming, jumping and swinging-like-Tarzan from ropes into the refreshing blue pools at the bottom of the falls. It is an once-in-a-lifetime experience you don`t want to miss when in Ocho Rios!
A little of the beaten path natural lagoon is a hidden spot often missed by crowds visiting famous Dunn`s River Falls.
Irie Blue Hole is not an official Jamaican Tourist Board attraction, with no vendors and queues to go through
- The Blue Hole is about 20 minutes from Ocho Rios by car.
- The drive to Irie Blue Hole in the hills of St Ann Paris near Ocho Rios is not easy to find and is a bumpy one. It is easier to hire a driver.
- The tiny cave under one of the waterfalls is safe, but if you are claustrophobic, it is maybe not a good idea.
- Don`t forget to wear water shoes (bring yours or rent them upon arrival)
GOOD TO KNOW:
Entrance Fee: $15 USD
2. DUNN`S RIVER FALLS
At about 55 m (180 feet) high and 180 m (600 feet) long, Dunn`s River Falls is one of the most spectacular waterfalls in Jamaica. These famous cascade falls, located just 3 km west of Ocho Rios, are one of the few travertine waterfalls in the world that empties directly to the sea. The great natural wonders of the Caribbean with a series of stunning cascades and several small pools is extremely popular tourist attraction that you may climb up to the top with the help of tour guides from the park.
A famous cascading waterfall that you can climb
Dunn`s River Falls, one of Jamaica`s national treasures.
Dunn`s River Falls – a spectacular waterfall continuously rebuilt by the sediments in spring water is described by geologist as “a living phenomenon”.
Dunn`s River Falls, featured in the first James Bond movie Dr. No and a location shoot for the Tom Cruise movie Cocktail.
- If you wish to avoid the crowds, try to visit famous waterfalls early in the morning on a day when no cruise ships are docked at the port (view ship schedule).
- Bring a waterproof camera if you have your own.
- Don`t forget to put on your water shoes
- The climb is suitable for all ages
GOOD TO KNOW:
Entrance Fees (1st April 2019):
Prices (Non-Resident): Adults – $25 USD, Child (age 4-12) $17 USD
Prices (Jamaican Resident) * ID required: Adults $1000 JMD, Child (age 4-12) $500 JMD
Opening Hours: 8.30 am – 4 pm ( Regular hours of operation), 7 am – 4 pm (Cruise ship day hours). Open 365 days a year.
3. MYSTIC MOUNTAIN
Just a short distance from Ocho Rios, a road leads uphill to Mystic Mountain. Take a breath-taking chairlift ride (the Sky Explorer) above the treetops and enjoy spectacular views of the cruise ship port and the Jamaican coastline on your left and the lush rainforest, on your right. In about 15 -20 minutes you will get to the top of the 700 feet mountain where you may enjoy lots of outdoor activities.
A famous adventure theme park, one of the most popular attractions in the town, is a must for adventure-seekers with its bobsled ride, zip line and rainforest tram.
Bobsled Jamaica: A 1000 metre long gravity-drive through the Jamaican rainforest
However, Mystic Mountain is not only about the stunning views and an adrenaline rides. You may also visit Bobsled Museum, take guided natural walks, cool off in an infinity pool with a waterslide or enjoy relaxing time in the tropical gardens watching Hummingbirds. The choice is yours.
Mystic Mountain is a great place for families, especially if you have kids of different ages.
Take guided natural walks or cool off in an infinity pool with a waterslide.
Spectacular views of the lush rainforest and Ocho Rios.
GOOD TO KNOW:
Entry Fee: find out more information here.
Opening times: 8 am -5 pm (might be different if there is no cruise ship in the port)
4. FERN GULLY in Ocho Rios
If you would love to experience Jamaica`s mountainous terrain and you don`t have enough time to visit famous Blue Mountains, make your way to nearby Fern Gully. A natural area, created when an earthquake destroyed a river bed, is a winding scenic stretch of road which starts in Ocho Rios and runs for about 3 miles.
The area gets its name from an abundance of giant tropical ferns and hardwood trees which grow in the area and create a tunnel-like effect (form a canopy overhead). A drive through a road built on an old riverbed in the heart of the rainforest is not to be missed when in Ocho Rios.
Fern Gully populated with dense rain forest vegetation
5. DOLPHIN COVE OCHO RIOS
Dolphin Cove, located just 3 km (2 miles) from Ocho Rios, is another extremely popular attraction in Ochi. This is a typical swim-with-dolphins tourist trap (favourite especially between cruise tourists), where you may also interact with stingrays, sharks and other animals.
Margaritaville, located conveniently on the main street in Ocho Rios, is another touristy place to visit. A restaurant and a bar with a two-story waterslide and a swimming pool transforms into a nightclub with Afro-Cuban vibe.
Jamaica is blessed with plenty of postcard perfect white-sand beaches and clear warm waters. Unfortunately, the finest of these beaches, are either incorporated into resorts or privately owned attractions with an entrance fee.
Dunn`s River Beach, Ocho Rios, Jamaica
Turtle Beach, located approximately 10 minutes away from Ocho Rios, is the main beach in the town. 500 metres long beach with a wide range of water sports requires an entry fee to access the beach (Adults is $3 USD or $200 JMD, children (2-11 years) is $1 USD or $100 JMD). Loungers and umbrellas are available for rent.
Similarly, James Bond Beach at Oracabessa Bay, located 16 km from Ochi, is another privately owned beach. This beach with turquoise blue waters can be seen in the Bond film Dr. No.
Day pass at the Riu Ocho Rios:
A day pass at 24hr All Inclusive Riu Ocho Rios includes beach and pool access, all meals and drinks, snorkel gear, transportation from the cruise port and much more.
While Jamaica`s reefs may not be the best in the Caribbean, there are still some places along the north coast for snorkelling.
Apart from snorkelling, many beaches in Ocho Rios are offering everything from rental of scuba equipment to non-motorized options such as kayaking. All the main resorts have dive sites and operators who rent out snorkelling equipment.
9. KONOKO FALLS & BOTANIC GARDEN
Stroll through the botanic gardens and climb less touristy waterfall located just about 5 minutes from the Ocho Rios town centre.
Take a guided tour to learn about the history of the island and its first inhabitants, the Tainos, who Columbus met on his arrival in Jamaica. Konoko Falls and Botanic gardens are also home to a museum and small zoo where you might see parrots and endemic birds such as Jamaican barn owl.
- Some Ochi taxi drivers are still more familiar with the name Coyaba Gardens & Mahoe Falls (the previous name of Konoko Falls)
- Don`t forget your water shoes (and if you do, you may still buy them on site)
GOOD TO KNOW:
Entrance Fee: Adults $ 20 USD, Children (3-12 years) $ 10 USD, Under 3 years – Free.
10. JAMAICAN SUNRISE & SUNSET
Nothing beats the Caribbean sunsets, but the Jamaican sunrises are pretty spectacular too. Even though Negril is reputed to have the most stunning views of the sunset, those in Ocho Rios are breath-taking too!
The sun creates a different show every day, so you will never get bored of watching them. And the best thing? They are absolutely free.
11. RIVER TUBING
Ocho Rios offers a large variety of outdoor activities and river tubing is one of them. Paddle downstream sitting in a huge rubber ring and float down the refreshing crystal clear White River in Ocho Rios. Known for its beautiful wildlife and lush tropical scenery, river tubing down the White River may be enjoyed by all ages. Rafting down the river is a pleasant day to spend a few hours.
ADVENTURE IN OCHO RIOS JAMAICA
- Swim in the Irie Blue Hole (Secret Falls)
- Climb famous Dunn`s River Falls
- Visit Mystic Mountain, a famous adventure theme park for its bobsled ride, zip line and rainforest tram
- Ride the calm waves of the crystal clear river and enjoy beautiful Jamaican scenery while River Tubing on the White River near Ocho Rios.
- Swim in the glowing Luminous lagoon on the Jamaican northern coast
- Take an ATV tour around Ocho Rios
- Kayak through the Jamaican waterways and enjoy its stunning landscape
- Take a tour to the limestone caves
UNMISSABLE THINGS TO DO IN OCHO RIOS ON A CRUISE
- Swim at the Ire Blue Hole
- Climb the famous Dunn`s River Falls, located just a short distance from the port
- Take a ride on the Zion Bus to Bob Marley`s home in Nine Mile village
- Take a chairlift ride to the Mystic Mountain for some of the best views of Ocho Rios
- Unravel the attractions of the Mystic Mountain and don`t forget to go bobsledding and ziplining
- Enjoy a horseback ride on one of the Jamaican beaches
- Visit Konoko Falls located in the hills of St Ann
- Drive through Fern Gully: a former riverbed which disappeared after an earthquake, now a home to the natural fern forest
- Relax at the Shaw Park Gardens – an must have attraction for nature lovers
- Explore the Green Grotto Caves
- Do some shopping in Ocho Rios
- Relax on one of the white sandy beaches in Ocho Rios
PRACTICAL INFORMATION ABOUT JAMAICA
With two international airports (Kingston and Montego Bay), Jamaica is well served by flights from Europe, the USA and Canada. When visiting Ocho Rios, the 93 km (58 miles) shuttle ride from Montego Bay takes approximately 90 minutes.
HOW TO STAY SAFE IN JAMAICA
Jamaica, one of the most popular destinations in Caribbean, has declared a state of emergency in 2018 due to high levels of crime and violence around all the tourist areas in Montego Bay Area. There is also an ongoing threat of gang violence in some areas in Kingston, the nation`s capital city, where crime is a growing problem. However, Jamaica has an amazing natural abundance and it would be shame to miss exploring safe places. As long as you use your common sense and you are aware of your surroundings, you will enjoy this stunning country.
Don`t wander around alone at night in Ocho Rios, Negril or Montego Bay and avoid dangerous areas. Take particular care when withdrawing money from ATMs, don`t carry large amount of cash, or expensive jewellery with you (one of the biggest problems tourists face are actually petty theft).
WHERE TO STAY IN OCHO RIOS JAMAICA
Jamaica is well-known for its All-inclusive resorts. If you are thinking about booking a holiday in Ocho Rios and you cannot make up your mind where to stay, check out our review of The CLUB Hotel RIU Ocho Rios. This oceanfront resort, with stunning location provides the perfect place for rest and relaxation while staying in Ochi.
TIP: For those visiting Ocho Rios on a cruise ship, the hotel also offers All-inclusive Club Hotel RIU Ocho Rios DAY PASS (the day pass begins directly from the Ocho Rios cruise ship port). Find out more information here.
GOOD TO KNOW:
- Smoking marihuana is very common in Jamaica and most likely will be offered to you during your stay. However, smoking marihuana is considered illegal in Jamaica. Avoid carrying and using drugs even if it is easily available.
- The local currency is the Jamaican dollar (J$), which does not have a fixed rate. It is possible to pay in USD dollars as well.
- Vaccination certificates are not required, unless visitors are travelling from an infected area for yellow fever.
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Have you been to Ocho Rios in Jamaica? What would you like to try? Did we miss anything? Let us know in the comments below.
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